How About a Little Civility

J Philip Faranda December 30, 2010

Gregory playing in the snowBelieve it or not, New Yorkers are not the rudest people I have run into. Having lived in several different places, including Boston, Philadelphia and New Orleans, I have run into some meanies (few in N.O.). But when I moved back to Westchester in 2001, I was pleasantly reminded how comparatively nice my fellow noo yawkas are. But we still have some pieces of work. And the holiday season doesn’t make a difference with some. 

Most of the time I blow it off. However, today there is a guy walking amongst us that doesn’t know it, but he is fortunate that his head is still attached to his torso. 

Due to the light week, today I took our 6-year old, Gregory out for a short trip with me. We went to White Plains to the Toys R Us that happens to be in the same building as our board of REALTORS, and Gregory kept asking to go upstairs. I finally gave in, because I thought he wanted to ride the escalator, but the little bugger somehow knew there was a McDonald’s one level up. I still don’t know where he saw the sign or how he knew, because he had never been there. 

It was crowded and busy, but the line appeared to be moving, so I took a chance and went in with him. Gregory is on the spectrum for autism and still learning boundaries, so I had to really be on my toes. When we got to the counter and ordered, we waited very briefly and a tray was put in front of us with food, which Gregory instinctively reached for. From right next to me, I hear a guy growl something nasty and snatch his food- my son didn’t know. I grabbed Gregory’s hand before he even took anything, but Big Mouth still had to act like we were fondling his wife.

Now, in this day and age we live in, I would think that everyone who walks on their hind legs has gotten the memo that you don’t mess with someone’s kids in public. You don’t touch them, you don’t yell at them, and if you do address anything you should be as disarming as possible because you don’t know who or what you are dealing with.

I don’t even remember what the guy said, but it was over the top and hostile. And after my reflex to take my son’s hand was over and the schmuck walked off chomping like a self centered troglodyte I felt myself getting angry. Very angry. I wanted to say “you don’t need to be nasty to a 6-year old with autism” but I knew that if I opened my mouth it could escalate- I felt, very viscerally, that I didn’t care what the people around us would think if I made a scene. So I bit my lip out of the sheer intellectual knowledge that it would be bad to indulge my clenched jaw. 

I worked in restaurants for years and know how primal people are when they are hungry. But I never felt that was a valid excuse for nastiness. I know plenty of people are stressed out these days and that money is tight and nothing is easy. But there is no justification to bark at a stranger’s child. Honestly if some kid grabbed my fries I’d spring for the 99 cents and 45 second delay and get more fries if it really skeeved me out. But I’d mind my tongue, and it wouldn’t take nearly as much self control as I exercised today sparing Supersize Asshat some considerable discomfort. Be as big a jerk as you want with me but do not mess with the cubs. 

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